I’m very happy to have a poem selected for inclusion in Rattle mag’s special issue on mental illness. “Long Car Line Prayer” was written just prior to my having a debilitating panic attack, brought on by many things I did not know were about to turn my life upside down. I think you can sense some of the anxiety I was feeling in the poem. I still feel this way sometimes, but now I am able to stand the symphony of words in my head without assigning any kind of judgement to them. They are just thoughts- not positive, not negative, not good, not bad, not weird. Just words I am thinking.
If you are suffering from anxiety, panic or depression, I know how bad it can get. I also know there are not a lot of success stories about overcoming mental illness on the internet. I went desperately looking for them to no avail. My mantra during the worst of it was “never, ever give up trying to get better” and it got me through many a hard day and night. So did cognitive behavioral therapy, books, medication, good friends, tears, barbaric yawps, and supportive family members. The best medication was time, really, and it was measured in milliseconds. Slowly, very slowly, it got better. And that surprised me. Some of you know exactly what I mean: how the worst part is that it won’t go away. That horrible feeling. Well, now I know it can and it will.
Hang on through the hard parts. Sing or draw or write about it. If God is a part of your life, She can help. Ponds and birds and trees will also suffice. When you are better, you have to do something a little crazy: tell everyone in the world what happened because we need more stories about falling down and getting back up again.
Here’s to all of our panic attacks and poems and being human in this world. It is not easy, but it can be beautiful, and we must help each other through it.